Silent Film and Live Music at Central Penn College

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I promised myself I wouldn’t start another article with a story about myself or something to do with me, but I have to break that rule because anyone who reads this will find it quite hilarious that I, Hope Frick, self-proclaimed loud-mouth, girl who does not do anything quietly or at low-volume, am writing about a silent film. I just had to make that connection.

The Central Penn Humanities Film Series, an initiative of Central Penn College, will be hosting a unique film and music experience Friday, April 26, with a screening of the 1920 German Silent Film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

The movie, considered to be a horror and suspense classic, will be accompanied by a jazz trio, who will compose and perform a live soundtrack on-the-spot as the film plays. The trio consists of drummer Mark Hunsberger, adjust instructor at Central Penn and the Director of Education of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra; pianist Kirk Reese, professor at Messiah College; and bassist Steve Meashey.

Hunsberger will kick off the event with a short talk about the process of composing the score for the film.

“In a typical jazz improvisation, you’re playing in the context of a song,” said Hunsberger. “In the case of this film, there is no musical context.”

But, as an accomplished musician, Hunsberger is up for the challenge of “improvising” a total film score and bringing the 20s to life. Hunsberger has been described as having a “real knack for helping students understand how music reflects an era,” and his classes on the history of rock and roll are among the college’s most popular.

The Series, which was launched by Central Penn’s Dr. Brant Ellsworth, is now in its second year. Ellsworth, an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Director of the Film Series, started the program as a way to use his education, experiences, and insights to spark curiosity and engagement with the arts with others on the Central Penn campus and in the community.

As a scholar of American history and culture, he’s learned to appreciate film not only for its entertainment value but also for its ability to encapsulate the hopes, fears, dreams, and anxieties of its creator and of an era. So, to him, a film series seemed like a natural way for faculty at Central Penn College to open its doors to the public and intellectually engage with the community.

Several College faculty have been invited to select a film of “importance”—historical, cultural, or artistic—and, in a short presentation, share why the film they selected matters. Previous presentations have explored masculinity in “Jaws,” the role of film noir in “The Big Lebowski,” and the mythical draw of the American frontier in “Into the Wild.” On deck is “Get Out” on July 26 and “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” on Oct. 26.

Next Friday’s event begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Capital BlueCross Theatre and is free and open to the public. “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and the performance will begin at 7 p.m. Find more information here.

Sara Bozich
Author: Sara Bozich

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